Del. Donald B. Robertson (D-Montgomery), the majority leader of the Maryland House of Delegates, said nothing against a measure prohibiting election day "walkaround" money when the bill was debated on the House floor, as reported in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post. Robertson spoke against the measure last week in a House committee and voted against it when it came to a vote in the House Monday. CAPTION: (NEW-LINE)Picture, DEL. HELEN KOSS . . . "so many loopholes"
A measure prohibiting the use of election day "walk-around" money was approved by the House of Delegates today following an unusual role reversal by two of the most predictable factions in the legislature: the reform-minded "white hats" of Montgomery County and the "clubhouse pols" of Baltimore.
The "white hats" and the "club-house pols" are two of the oldest political sterotypes in Annapolis, and it has long been held that reform legislation can best be defined by the way these two groups react to it. If the "white hats" were for a bill and the "clubhouse pols" opposed it, chances are the legislation would be labeled "reform".
But it was not that way at all today. The "walk-around" bill had all the markings of reform. It was aimed, after all, at one of the most visible symbols of old-guard politics-the doing out of cash to hired hands who for one day, election day, work the street corners and polling places rounding up votes for their political sponsors. This practice is a tradition in Baltimore, but a totally alien concept in the suburbs of Montgomery County.
When the measure came up for a vote today, however, one Baltimore "clubhouse pol" after another got up to say that the time had come to end the "walk-around" tradition. And two of Montgomery's most powerful "white hats"-Majority Leader Donald B. Robertson and Helen Koss, chairman of the Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee-got up and ardently opposed the bill.
Robertson argued that the measure went too far, that it approached an unconstitutional attempt to limit the scope of political campaigning. Koss used a different argument, claiming that "there are so many loopholes in the bill that it amounts to nothing, and I don't believe in passing nothing bills."
Koss later reflected on the irony of the situation. For many years, she had supported efforts to do away with "walk-around" money. "And every time I did," she recalled, "the politicians from Baltimore would come up to me and say, 'It's easy for you Montgomery people to take a reform position on something that doesn't affect you.' This year, Koss finally changed her position. And where were all those Baltimore legislators? On the other side.
Indeed, while Robertson voted against the bill and Koss abstained, 26 of the 33 Baltimore delegates voted for it. One Baltimore delegate, freshman John Pica, even attempted to amend the measure to make it stronger by banning the payment of election day meals and drinks for campaign workers.
Pica's amendment failed, and the fact that a majority of the Baltimore delegates voted against it indicated that many of them were more interested in making a symbolic statement against the "walk-around" image than actually doing away with the practice.
When the same measure passed the Senate by an overwhelming vote one month ago, it had the support of two of Baltimore's more adept practitioners of the "walk-around" art-Democratic Sens. Harry McGuirk and Joseph Bonvegna. McGuirk noted that
See WALKAROUND, C7, Col. 5
WALKAROUND, From C1 the bill did not disturb him because it had "so many loopholes you could drive a Mack truck through it."
The practice has become a political way of life in the blue-collar and black wards of Baltimore, where local political leaders, such as McGuirk and Bonvegna, line up "walk-around" armies and then ask candidates to supply the money to pay for them. These "walk-around" armies are assigned-for $15 to $30 per person-to get out the vote for their sponsors by doing whatever is necessary-rapping on apartment doors, babysitting, chauffeuring and so on.
For the most part, the money is supplied by candidates running for statewide office who believe that a large vote in Baltimore is essential for victory. In last year's Democratic gubernatorial primary, for instance, Blair Lee III handed out $90,000 in "walk-around" money. He later regretted it. After losing the election, Lee said: "All that money wasted, right down the drain."
Sen. John J. Garrity (D-Prince George's) drafted the measure prohibiting "walk-around" money this year. To Garrity the practice "borders on the buying of an election, the buying of votes."
Because the House added three minor amendments to the Senate version of the bill, it will now be returned to the Senate for final action. Garrity said he believed the Senate would concur with the House and enact the law. Gov. Harry R. Hughes, who criticized the "walk-around" practice during his campaign for governor, is expected to sign the measure.